Tuesday, September 27, 2011
Video review: "The Cleveland Show: Season 2"
"The Cleveland Show" was in danger of being a disaster. A spin-off of Fox's crude but witty Sunday night animation show "Family Guy," it was also the third show by Seth MacFarlane (who also created "American Dad!".)
By all rights, "The Cleveland Show" should've been an arrogant overreach, getting short shrift from its creative leaders and descending into a pit of moldy gags ripped off from its predecessors.
But Cleveland the gang not only survived, they flourished in their second season together. The show settled into its own rhythm and tone -- obviously similar to the ironic style of MacFarlane's other shows, reliant on non-sequiturs and a heavy dollop of pop-culture references.
By not worrying about following too closely in the steps of "Family Guy," the show stood out on its own.
Cleveland is a tubby, middle-aged black man who returns to his fictional hometown of Stoolbend after being widowed and remarrying his high school sweetheart, Donna. Some of the show's detractors have pointed out that "The Cleveland Show" is the only network TV show with an African-American as the main character, and yet he's voiced by a white actor, Mike Henry.
In a cheeky bit of turnaround, though, Cleveland's redneck neighbor Lester is voiced by a black actor, and most of the principal cast is played by minorities, including Sanaa Lathan.
The show's real MVP is Kevin Michael Richardson, who voices several characters, including Lester and Cleveland Jr. Cleveland Jr. is a high school freshman with the mentality of a kindergartner, a seriously smart kid afflicted with profound social naiveté.
Season 2 contained several highlights in its 23 episodes, including the scandal of Donna's notorious past stardom in soft-score porn blaxploitation films ("Hot Cocoa Bang Bang"), and the revelation that Cleveland's buddy Terry, a legendary ladies' man, is actually gay ("Terry Unmarried").
With its zippy pace and distinct characters, "The Cleveland Show" seems set up for its own marathon run of comedy on Sundays.
Extra features include audio commentary on five episodes, deleted scenes, a showcase of celebrity guest stars, and a trailer for "Hot Cocoa Bang Bang."
Movie: 3.5 stars out of four
Extras: 2.5 stars